Lethal in Disguise


For several years ACRI has been a member of INCLO, The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations, which is comprised of 11 leading human rights organizations. It is fascinating to examine together with our colleagues from around the world – including from Egypt, Kenya, the United States, India, Argentina and Hungary- how organizations deal with the diverse challenges of protecting and defending human rights in different realities, which are sometimes surprisingly similar.


One of the threats to human rights that concerns all of these organisations is the adoption of military practices by the police, when attempting to disperse demonstrations. Rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades, water cannons and other riot control measures are routinely used against citizens who wish to exercise their right to protest. These measures have been used at protests in Ferguson USA, at Egypt’s Tahrir Square and at demonstrations against the regime in Turkey. In Israel, similar though less intense measures have been used, for example, during protests against the Prawer Plan concerning Bedouin villages in the Negev, and at protests against discrimination organized by the Ethiopian community.


In addition to violating the right to demonstrate, the irresponsible use of riot dispersal methods – confusingly also called “non-lethal weapons” – has led to countless serious injuries and even deaths of demonstrators around the world. Despite the serious consequences, professional expertise about the potential dangers of these measures is limited. Each year, new weapons that are potentially lethal are introduced into the market and are put to use – without appropriate control or supervision on national or international levels.


A new report, written jointly by INCLO and the international NGO Physicians for Human Rights, analyzes the potential dangers of weapons that are used to disperse demonstrations. The report includes case studies from different countries, including the Israeli perspective written by ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu.


The various case studies illustrate how the use of firearms to disperse demonstrators often increases violence and escalates the situation, instead of police interventions having a calming effect. Other case studies, in England, for example, depict how police forces are capable of dealing with demonstrations without using any weapons. There is no doubt that the police are obligated to ensure public safety, alongside their obligation to allow citizens to exercise the right to protest. The routine use of dangerous means of riot control is certainly not the right approach.





Sharon signature

Sharon Abraham-Weiss
Executive Director
Association for Civil Rights in Israel

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Democracy and Civil Liberties

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